The answer to the above question may surprise many who are not involved in the day to day operation of a large trucking company. Those who engage in business on both sides often think of overtime as another type of expense that can be leveraged and used as needed to gain more or less work time out of employees in a standard work week. In the trucking industry, however, things are a bit different when it comes to employees (i.e. drivers) working more hours than a standard trucking work week. Knowing the law as it applies specifically to this industry can be the difference between a successful company and a costly lawsuit.
Hours of Service
‘Hours of service’ is a term used in the trucking industry to refer to the regulations that govern how long a truck driver may operate his or her rig continuously in a 24-hour period. According to the most current regulations, a driver may not drive more than a specific number of continuous hours without taking specified hours of break time. These regulations are designed to keep fatigued drivers off of the interstate and intrastate system of roadways, as accidents involving large trucks (and their heavy loads) can be extremely dangerous to all persons involved. According to federal hours of service guidance, the day is typically carved into a 14-hour driving window followed by a mandatory 10-hour “rest period.” Within the 14-hour driving window, a truck driver may only actually drive his or her truck for a total of 11 hours. The remainder of the time may be spent doing other tasks, so long as it does not involve driving the truck. State and federal laws require the use of log books by truck drivers that are then used by inspectors to determine whether a driver has followed the regulations by taking the required breaks and limiting drive time to that which is allowed under the law.
The laws governing hours of service for truck drivers carry with them heavy penalties for operators and companies that violate them. Because public safety is behind the regulations, any violation is seen as a potential hazard to public health. Those who are found to have violated the law can face maximum penalties, including fines and civil penalties amounting to thousands of dollars. Violations may also be seen as contributing factors to finding fault if an accident occurs because of a fatigued driver. As with any automobile accident, accidents involving large trucks can be costly both to the company’s wallet and personally to anyone injured in a crash. Even if the driver or his/her employer can prove that another driver was at fault for an accident, if the driver is found to have operated his or her truck outside the consecutive hours allowed by law, a court may attribute some of the fault back to the negligent driver.
If you have questions about hours of service laws as they relate to the trucking industry, call the professionals at Garcia & Gurney today. Our attorneys are skilled in all aspects of California’s transportation laws and can provide you with the knowledge you need to keep your drivers safe and operating at the highest efficiency levels.